Tips For Visiting Temple Of Heaven In Beijing, China

tips and guide temple of heaven beijing china

The Temple Of Heaven is a majestic imperial complex that was used by Chinese Emperors as a ceremonial grounds to pray to Gods and Heaven.

The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests building within this complex is considered one of the most iconic and photographed architectural wanders in Beijing.

As one of the most complete ancient temples in China, The Temple of Heaven is quite remarkable and a popular tourist attraction for those visiting Beijing alongside with Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Summer Palace.

Here is our guide full of tips covering all you need to know to visit the Temple Of Heaven on your own or as part of a tour group:

Where Is The Temple Of Heaven Located

The Temple Of Heaven is a city-like imperial complex located in the center of Beijing just south of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

The Temple Of Heaven is pretty big and takes up a few city blocks. It is surrounded by giant walls so depending on your arrival location it might take 15 minutes to find the closest entry point. The complex is more or less shaped like a square with entrances on all four sides of it. 

Location: 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, China, 100061

Danbi Bridge

How Do You Get There

The fastest way to get to the Temple Of Heaven is by taking the underground metro.

Although the first time I took the underground subway it felt quite intimidating, it’s one of the fastest and easiest transportation methods to use for getting around in Beijing.

You can purchase the metro tickets at the ticket booth located underground by the subway entrance. If you plan to spend more than a few days in Beijing I highly recommend getting a reusable metro card. Otherwise, you can purchase a one time ticket by selecting your endpoint at the ticket station.

During my time in Beijing, I was staying in the business district in the east part of the city. To get to the Temple Of Heaven I took the Line 1 train with a transfer to Line 5 train going south towards Songjiazhuang. On the Line 5 train, I took the exit for Dongmen and then exit A2 Northwest towards Tiantan East Road out of the underground metro station. Once I exited the metro station I turned left and walked about 15 minutes until I reached the north entrance into the Temple Of Heaven.

Depending on where you come from, your directions will probably be slightly different. If you plan to take the metro to the Temple Of Heaven as well, I highly recommend using Apple Maps for directions. Apple Maps will tell you exactly where the metro station is located, which metros to take, which exit to take and where to go after. Apple Maps was a complete lifesaver for me in Beijing and made public transportation super easy.

Directions: Line 5 train, Exit Dongmen

Temple Of Heaven Imperial Park

Entrance Fees

The Temple Of Heaven has entrance gates located on all four sides of it: north, east, south, and west. You can buy entrance tickets at any of these entrance gates.

Note that there are multiple entrance tickets that you can purchase.

If you want to just access the park within the complex, the ticket for the park costs 15 Yuan ($2 USD).

BUT if you want to access any of the temples or historical attractions within this imperial complex (which most people do) like the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests, the Echo Wall and the Circular Mound Altar, make sure to specifically ask for the Through Ticket for 34 Yuan ($5 USD).

Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests

I wasn’t aware of this so when I arrived at the Temple Of Heaven and asked for a ticket, they sold me the park pass for 15 Yuan. When I got to the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests, I had to buy an additional ticket for 20 Yuan ($3 USD) to access it. Thankfully there are ticket booths set up inside the Temple Of Heaven as well so you don’t have to backtrack all the way to the main entrance.

Note that there is an area within the Temple Of Heaven complex that will ask for your passport to enter it. It’s called the Fasting Palace and it’s located on the west part of the complex. You will need to stop by the ticket booth right by the Fasting Palace entrance, show your passport and they will issue you a free ticket to enter this facility. 

Entrance Fee Into The Park: 15 Yuan

Entrance Fee Into The Temples: Additional 20 Yuan

Opening Hours

The Temple Of Heaven Park is open to the public from 6 am to 9 pm but the actual temples within this complex don’t open until 8 am.

I actually showed up at the Temple Of Heaven at 6 am in hopes to shoot sunrise photos at the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests building and I was a bit disappointed to find out that it didn’t open until 8 am. By the time the doors to this area opened at 8 am, it was immediately crowded with tour groups and visitors.

After spending a few weeks in Beijing, I came to realize that none of the popular tourist attractions are ever really empty but they are usually the least crowded during the opening hours (plus the weather is a lot cooler and more bearable). While there will still be a lot of people, even at opening hours, it won’t be as bad compared to what the crowds look like at noon or 1 pm.

Park Opening Hours: 6 am to 9 pm

Temple Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm

Fasting Palace

Tour Of The Temple Of Heaven

While I did a few tours during my time in Beijing, most of the sightseeing that I did was on my own.

The Temple Of Heaven is a place that you can most definitely visit on your own. The layout of this imperial complex is pretty straight forward with the major attractions located along the center of it. Throughout the Temple Of Heaven, you’ll find many plaques and information in English so you can learn a lot of cool things about this place on your own.

Of course, if it’s your first time in Beijing and you don’t feel comfortable going on your own, this Beijing tour includes a stop at the Temple Of Heaven along with a few other major attractions in the area.

I personally took one of the Get Your Guide tours in Beijing and it was quite informative and well organized. Since these tours often include many stops, you’ll end of spending less time at the actual location than going on your own. But it’s a great option if you want to get a “feel” of the city and some of its major attractions.

Echo Wall

What To See On Your Own

The Temple Of Heaven imperial complex overall is really big but the layout is pretty simple compared to other places like The Summer Palace. But there are still quite a few attractions to see on your visit and you should set aside at least 2-3 hours to explore the entire temple grounds.

Most people start at the north entrance and make their way down south while stopping at these attractions:

  • Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests
  • East Annex Hall
  • West Annex Hall
  • Danbi Bridge
  • Echo Wall
  • Imperial Vault Of Heaven
  • Circular Mound Altar
  • Lingxing Gates
  • Fasting Palace
  • Divine Music Administration

I highly suggest taking a look at the map by the entrance and familiarizing yourself with the layout. These ancient Chinese temples are just so enormously big and having a basic idea of the layout is essential so you don’t feel lost.

I have found that I feel a lot more confident and make better use of my time if I know what I want to see ahead of time vs aimlessly wandering around.

Thankfully the Temple Of Heaven has one of the more simple layouts and there are plenty of well-marked maps inside of it as well.

My Visit

The Temple Of Heaven imperial complex consists of a big park, various temples, and structures within its walls.

The Temple Of Heaven is split into an inner part and an outer part. The inner part holds all of the important temples like Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests, Eco Wall and the Circular Mound Altar. The outer part holds the imperial park and the Divine Music Administration where performers trained and practiced sacrificial music.

During my visit, I started at the north entrance because I wanted to visit the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests first before it got too crowded. This is by far the most recognized and popular building of this complex and it consists of a majestic round temple with smaller prayer halls around it.

The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests is the largest ancient wooden building in China. It was built using a traditional wood technique that required high-level skill and craftsmanship. The main prayer hall consists of a three-layered roof and giant pillars representing the 12 months of the year. This temple earned its name because it was exclusively used in January or early spring to pray for good harvests in the upcoming year. The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests is considered an architectural masterpiece and in 1988 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To the left and right of the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvest are the West and East Annex Halls. These are square buildings with two rows of halls that were used to store the divine tablets.

After visiting the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests I went south across the Danbi Bridge, one of the oldest passageways in ancient Beijing. This passageway goes across the Temple Of Heaven complex connecting it north to south.

The center of the Danbi Bridge consists of a stone slab that was exclusively used by the Emperor. The northern part of the bridge towards the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests is slightly lifted making you feel like you’re walking towards Heaven. Unlike the ancient days now visitors are allowed to use the Danbi Bridge so everyone can pretend to be an Emperor walking down the middle of the passageway.

After crossing the Danbi Bridge I entered the area of the Eco Wall and Imperial Vault Of Heaven.

Imperial Vault Of Heaven

The Eco Wall is a wall that surrounds the Imperial Vault Of Heaven. This wall was made hard, smooth and round. As a result, it can reflect sound waves so two people that stand within these walls can hear each other clearly.

The Imperial Vault Of Heaven that stands within these walls is another elegant round building, similar in shape to the Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests. The Imperial Vault Of Heaven was used to house the tablets for praying ceremonies and rituals.

A short distance south from the Eco Wall is the Circular Mound Altar that looks like a wide round platform with a stone in the middle that represents the Heaven. This is a place where worshiping ceremonies were held during the winter solstice.

Circular Mound Altar

From here you can walk through the Lingxing Gates and exit south or see more of the imperial complex.

I decided to backtrack to the Fasting Palace on the west side of this imperial complex. The Fasting Palace is a place where the emperor used to go to practice abstinence from food, music, and women before religious ceremonies.

In order to access the Fasting Palace, you’ll need your passport so keep that in mind if you want to visit this part of the complex. The Fasting Palace was the least visited part of the Temple Of Heaven tourist wise and quite serene. Here you can visit various hallways and buildings where the emperor and his servants used to reside.

After the Fasting Palace, you can go around to the back and pass by the Divine Music Administration that was used to practice ceremonial music. From here you can exit the Temple Of Heaven thought the west gate onto the main street.

Food Options Nearby

The Temple Of Heaven has very limited food and snack options so you might want to grab some food outside of the imperial complex after visiting it. Here are a few restaurant options that were highly recommended to me:

  • Metal Hands Cafe
  • Muji Hotel in the Beijingfun mall center
  • Soloist Coffee Company in the hutongs on the Yangmeizhu Byway

All of these restaurants are pretty close to the Temple Of Heaven but do require a short bus or cab ride in order to get there.

I decided to go check out the Metal Hands Café so I hopped on the 120 bus near the Temple Of Heaven west exit that dropped me off right outside the Metal Hands Restaurant.

Metal Hands Cafe

The Metal Hands is a cute coffee shop that serves sandwiches, delicious coffee, and desserts. For about 100 Yuan ($14 USD) I got an open egg sandwich with avocado, kale, and quinoa along with one of the best lattes I had in Beijing.

Other Tips

Before you head out to the Temple Of Heaven, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • In order to access certain parts of the temple, you will need to bring your passport.
  • You’ll be doing A LOT of walking so make sure to wear super comfy walking shoes.
  • The weather in Beijing in the summer can get super-hot and sunny. Make sure to wear a hat and bring along plenty of water although there are some snack stands where you can purchase water within the temple complex.
  • Plan to spend at least a few hours within the temple. I highly recommend bringing a few snacks to set you over since food options inside the temple are very limited.
  • On long sightseeing days like this one, I always bring along a portable phone charger in case my phone battery dies. It helps me feel at ease and not worry if I’ll be able to look up directions on my phone later in the day.

Interested in how I capture amazing photos on my trips? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my photos:

Looking for other interesting things to do around Beijing? Don’t forget to check out our Beijing posts below:

Planning your trip to China and looking for a place to stay in Beijing? Browse all the top Beijing hotel deals below!

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